For many years I favored Apple products which is to say I enjoyed using their hardware whenever possible though I was hardly an evangelist or fanboy. I like tech that works for the job at hand. Sometimes that means a PC running Windows, sometimes a server running Linux, sometimes a phone running iOS. I don’t believe there is one hard and fast rule for everyone out there so “recommendations” largely come down to an individual’s wants and needs for me.
Years ago I abandoned iOS in favor of Android. The first reason was screen size. At the time Apple wasn’t selling any phablet sized phones while Samsung and LG were. The second was the freedom to tinker. Android was iterating fast in those days while Apple was stock on a tick-tock yearly update schedule. There was basically an Android phone out there capable of filling every single use case. Best of all because of the open nature of the operating system even if the manufacturer didn’t quite have it right in their own take on the platform there was a launcher or application available that could fill the gap. Need something even more? If I wanted to do things that Google or the manufacturer wouldn’t let me I could root the device and find it.
My first Android device was the Nexus 7, the original one. I loved the form factor of a mini tablet and once again, like the large phone, Apple wasn’t making one. They eventually came out with an iPad mini but by then I was seduced by Android and its possibilities. I quickly moved away from most things Apple including a Roku instead of the AppleTV, phones, more tablets and even eventually a Windows 10 2-in-1 laptop and a Chromebook Flip.
I watched as Apple continued to ignore touch screens on laptops, opening up AppleTV to more developers and anything close to affordability in their lineup. Prices were going high, features were not getting added, I was ready to make a switch.
At the same time I watched Google avoid anything close to uniformity. The limitless freedom of Android meant every year there were dozens of new devices all with their pros and cons. My Nexus 7 got slow quick and I happily bought the updated version and planned to buy every singnle generation the company would make from that point forward. Then Google killed the Nexus 7 and there hasn’t been an update since 2013 and none appear to be on the horizon. The Nexus 10 and 9 were costly alternatives with their own shortcomings. The Pixel C was introduced as a costly hybrid between tablet and laptop. The device seemed incapable of fulfilling either role. I fell in love with Android on a tablet and Google seemed to have fallen out of love with the form factor. There are few good tablet apps and little innovation.
Android Wear was something I had high hopes for. A unified experience across many different devices. I bought a Moto 360. It turned me off of the entire wearable experience. Google failed to find a great use case. The hardware was bulky, the battery life non existent, the updates stopped coming. Android Wear quickly died and I stopped wearing the device.
Meanwhile the reality of Android’s much talked about problems with decentralized phone updates really does suck for the real world user. You buy a phone that is the latest and greatest and a year later Google unveils its newest OS offerings. Will your carrier and manufacturer deliver that update to you? That is anyone’s guess. Tablets, phones and watches get maybe six months of guaranteed update support. After that you never know. It can take a year or more for a device that does get an update to ever see it. That means just around the time Google shows off its newest innovations you are getting last years latest and greatest. Worst of all these updates often destroy your device slowing it down to a crawl.
The one shining light was Google’s Nexus phone line. If a user would buy Nexus device they would get vanilla Android with guaranteed updates for at least a couple of years. Finally an Android phone you could trust that wasn’t as expensive as the flagship devices from other manufacturers. That was until Google seemingly killed the Nexus line with a high end Pixel lineup. These are high end smartphones that look eerily similar to iPhones and come at the same premium cost. All the reviews are great, the camera is great but the price of admission is high. OK if you are really into Android it might be worth it. For me the risk is also high. How long before Google loses focus, yet again and dumps the Pixel lineup for something else?
On that same topic you have application confusion. What is the default messaging app for Android? Hangouts, Messages, Allo? What is the default assistant and how do you guarantee a good video call between users? Google is constantly building, rebranding, killing and replacing the core software on its phones while manufacturers build, rebrand, kill or just plain forget about their own endless ecosystems of applications that get loaded onto a device. Read Google often comes with crap software some of which they create a lot of which comes from the manufacture or the carrier. All of which kills your battery.
Then you have security, endless advertisements and a lack of support. If an iPhone breaks you can take it to the Apple Store. If an Asus, Samsung or LG phone breaks sometimes you take it to the carrier. Sometimes you have to call the manufacturer. Rarely is there ever a place next door where you can take it and get the support you really need. My last Android phone, the LG4, was a terrible. It broke three times thanks to a bug from the manufacturer. I had four different devices shipped to me over time. It was a major hassle. My wife’s phone finally died a few weeks ago from the same bug. Everyone just kind of shrugged along the way and I spent hours on the phone, shipping boxes and setting up and updating new devices. It was a terrible experience that was not uncommon across all my Android devices over time. I had some iOS devices that were not always free from incident but the people at the Apple Store were so much more helpful and would often just exchange a bad device for a new one that day offering to help me transfer data in store.
Meanwhile my kids play on Kindle tablets and old Android phones. These devices send them endless ads. Malware has been downloaded because spyware apps disquised as fun kids games make it easy for them to accidentally click links to nefarious web sites. It is a mess. Did I mention the ads? Endless, endless ads.
A lot has changed since I made the move to Android. Most notably I am a father. I don’t have time to tweak and change things. I have to now support tablets and soon phones for my kids and my wife and my extended family. I want to make sure grandma can talk to my kids and their cousins can connect. Heck I need to make sure mom and dad can guarantee messages make it back and forth something that would often elude us on Android devices where the endless see of messaging apps just plain wouldn’t work correctly.
Edward Snowden made some pretty big revelations about government spying. Countless celebrities have been hacked, endless consumer web sites, retailers and health systems have been hacked. I cannot even count the number of free months of credit monitoring I have been given attached to letters from a company whose data has been breached. Privacy and security are on my mind. Ease of use and maintenance are on my mind. Apple has been on my mind.
Recently I started using my Mac mini as my daily driver for work. A few months ago I bought an iPad mini to replace the Nexus tablet that no longer seems of importance to Google. I was instantly transported back to all of the love I used to have for my iOS device. I love the built in blue light filtering, I love the animations, emoji’s and ease of use of Messages. YES FINALLY ONE MESSAGE APP. IT MAKES SENSE! I love FaceTime and the fact that I can reach all of my iPhone friends easily. The iPad mini did for iOS what the Nexus 7 did for Android all those years ago. It turned me back on to Apple products.
I am still not a fan of Siri. She hasn’t gotten much better. I still prefer my Roku to the AppleTV’s I have lying around the house. But after years of shunning iOS my wife and I decided to go back to the iPhone. When her LG G4 broke it was the final straw. We both purchased an iPhone 7 Plus. In the next year I plan on replacing the Kindle’s with iPad mini’s and getting a bigger iPad myself.
I love how everything syncs now. There are still some problems with Apple services. I continue to use the much better Google Photos to back up all of our movies and memories. Everything else is quickly becoming Apple driven though. After years of purchasing movies and TV shows across a plethora of services (Google Play, Amazon, iTunes) I am going to settle in and give myself over to the fruit company.
I also decided to buy an Apple Watch. I thought I was done with wearables but I just couldn’t resist giving it a try. So far, I love it.
Security was a huge driver in my decision. Do I believe Apple is off limits to the NSA? No, absolutely not. I do like that Apple has tried to make it difficult or at least they claim to. I like that a lot of my data is encrypted as it moves back and forth within the ecosystem. I like that Apple publicly took on the government when it was asked to unlock an iPhone. Even if it is lip service it is more than Google or Microsoft is giving its customers.
I make my money from online advertising. I am a digital marketer. I have no problem with ads in general. I do have issues with the endless barrage of ads my children were seeing on a daily basis. I want the option to block ads and tracking for my kids and I have that with iOS devices.
The applications simply are better on the application store for iOS. There are so many kids apps on the Google Play store that are junky copyright infringing malware fronts. It really is a major issue parents need to be aware of.
In my heart of hearts I am a proud capitalist and freedom loving American. The choice and freedom of the open Google platform speaks volumes to me. As a user who has to support devices for a family and wants security and privacy the closed system of Apple also speaks volumes to me. Right now Apple is winning out.